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Least chub to stay off endangered list

Twenty years of hard work were rewarded recently. On Aug. 25, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that least chub — a tiny fish found only in Utah — is doing well enough that it doesn't need to be listed on the federal Endangered Species list.

Efforts by DWR biologists and private landowners were key to keeping least chub off the Endangered Species list.

Efforts by DWR biologists and private landowners were key to keeping least chub off the Endangered Species list.

Photo courtesy of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

Cassie Mellon, native aquatics program coordinator with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR), says hard work by DWR biologists, and partnerships with private landowners, were key to keeping the fish from being federally listed.

Help from federal agencies and water user groups was also critical to the success the DWR found.

When recovery work started in 1994, DWR biologists knew of only three locations in Utah that had wild least chub populations. "We later identified three additional ponds that had least chub," she says, "and we've introduced least chub to 22 additional sites. Today, a total of 28 ponds and wetlands have least chub in them."

Many of the ponds where least chub have been placed are on private property, where landowners voluntarily "stepped to the plate" and joined with the DWR to help the fish.

"The help private landowners gave us was crucial to increasing the number of least chub in Utah," Mellon says. "Without their help, we would not have been able to establish the number of least chub populations we've established."

After finding landowners who had ponds and wetlands that would support least chub, DWR biologists fenced springheads and worked with the landowners to reduce the affects of grazing in the wetlands where the chubs were placed. In one case, the DWR also purchased water rights to ensure a wetland received an adequate flow of water.

"Of the 28 locations where least chub are found in Utah," Mellon says, "10 are considered secure 'refuge' populations where least chubs are doing really well. Having those populations greatly influenced the Service's decision not to list the species."

Mellon says the DWR's efforts to conserve and protect least chub are far from over. "This decision doesn't mean our efforts to conserve least chub are coming to an end," she says. "In fact, just the opposite is true. We're going to maintain and increase the security and stability of the populations we have. And we'll continue to address threats as they arise."

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